LdMNPV and the Management of Gypsy Moths

Gypsy moth larvae consuming leaves

William Coville – Environmental Science

Julianne Foren – Animal Science

Catherine George – Horticultural Science

John Mazzone – Turf Grass Science and Managment

 

In the late 1860’s, a French scientist brought the gypsy moth to Massachusetts from Europe in the hopes of breeding disease-resistant genes into silkworms to improve and expand the silk industry (Liebhold, 2003). Due to his incompetence, a couple of his gypsy moth subjects made their way into the New England forest and found that they could live, breed, and thrive there. The carelessness of one scientist resulted in a gypsy moth invasion that persisted over the last hundred years and encompasses various ecosystems throughout the U.S. and Canada. Lymantria dispar dispar, known as the gypsy moth, is an invasive species that acts as a major pest of hardwood trees, particularly the dominant oak and aspen (Liebhold, 2003). As an example, a red oak that lies at the entrance of Quabbin Park in Belchertown, MA has been taken down due to it being mostly dead from gypsy moth defoliation (Miner, 2018). Iconic trees in parks around the country are not spared from the damage of gypsy moths and once enough damage sets in the trees are lost from the community. Not only does the gypsy moth cause an an aesthetic decline among these once beautiful hardwood trees, but they also play the role of the small beginning in a larger catalyst effect. They cause severe defoliation among the trees they feed on and cause harm to native species as well. One scientists economic greed and thoughtless actions have resulted in ecological destruction that has lasted and will continue to last well beyond his lifetime.

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Fighting Gypsy Moths With The Fungal Predator E. maimaga

Gypsy moth on oak leaf

Authors: Izaak Jankowski (Animal Science), Reilly Mcnamara (Animal Science), and Quinn Slavin (Horticulture)

The year is 1868, and a French scientist by the name of Leopold Trouvelot has just accidentally released an organism that will ruthlessly defoliate trees of Massachusetts forests in the years to come (DEEP, 2018). This disastrous creature is none other that the Gypsy moth; a species of moth which has been living and thriving in European and Asian ecosystems for thousands of years (Libehold, 2018).  It took this moth ten years prior to establishment to reach a population level that was sizable enough to notice (Libehold, 2018). Within 100 years, this moth had spread from the point of origin in Boston to areas all throughout the northeast coast, into the great lake states, and even into further northern areas such as Quebec and Ontario (DEEP, 2018). This rapid expansion was fueled by the vast amount of plant species the moth is able to feed upon and the limited predator it had.   Continue Reading

Fighting Fire with Fire: Effective Fuel Reduction Treatments Preventing Severe Wildfires

 

Northern California residents are used to dealing with large-scale wildfires erupting near and within their hometowns. However, this past October saw dozens of extreme wildfires simultaneously sweeping across Napa, Sonoma, and Solano counties (Holthaus, E., 2017). Soon after these eruptions, thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes, 1,500 structures had been destroyed, and eleven people were reported dead. Governor Jerry Brown promptly declared California in a state of emergency making the National Guard available. After one week, one of these fires named the Tubbs Fire, became California’s most destructive wildfire in history, taking 21 lives and destroying 5,643 structures (The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection [CALFIRE], 2017). Thousands of wildland firefighters worked day and night attempting to contain this fire, only receiving on average three hours of sleep a night (Westervelt, 2017). Ultimately the wildfires were uncontrollable, subsequently destroying thousands of wineries significantly hitting local economies. California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom stated that enormous fires interfacing with high population areas is unfortunately the new norm. Just this year, California fires have burned twice as many acres than 2016, and the average amount burned over the past five years (CALFIRE, 2016).

Contrary to popular belief, low severity and frequent wildfires that occur every 1-25 years are key to perpetuating healthy stands of certain forest types, especially in the western U.S (Pacific Northwest Research Station, 2015). Just one hundred years ago, the Northwestern forests contained many gaps in their canopies, and their understories were not very dense (Hessburg et al, 2005, p. 117).  Low severity fires sculpted these forests by keeping the buildup of vegetation at bay which created breaks in continuous fuel, also known as combustible vegetation (Washington, G.W). Breaks in fuel deter mega fires from spreading across the landscape (Hessburg et al, 2005, p. 132). Fire is imperative to forested ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest because it not only reduces stand density and accumulation of vegetation, but there are many ecological benefits such as nutrient recycling, reproduction, and germination, (Hessburg et al, 2005, p. 118).

Approximately a century ago, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) began putting these important fires out leading to a plethora of excessively dense stands with continuous, built-up fuels (Stephens et al., 2012., p. 549). The USFS were allotted money from an emergency fund allowing them to fight fires without chewing into their own budget (Houtman et al, 2013, p.A) During this century, the West entered a period of intensive logging where the largest trees were repeatedly cut, and many small trees all filled the gaps left behind simultaneously, cutting system called highgrading (Hessburg et al, 2005, p.120; p. 122). Years of fire suppression plus highgrading has transformed the forested landscapes of the Pacific Northwest to be now overly stocked stands, or groups of trees with uniform characteristics, of similar age (Snyder, M., 2014).

Wildfires in the US have been strongly affected by all aspects of global climate change. Climate change has altered current atmospheric patterns especially average air temperatures significantly impacting fire regimes (Huang et al, 2015, p. 89). Warming means that regions will experience drier than normal conditions conducive to extreme fire outbreaks (Harvey, C., 2017). The amount of moisture in vegetation decreases under warmer conditions because of a decrease in relative humidity, and an increase in evapotranspiration rates, or the process in which water is transferred from the land and foliage to atmosphere through evaporation (Huang et al, 2015, p. 89). Wildfires feed off dry fuels because fuels with lower moisture levels take less time to burn, therefore making wildfire behavior more erratic and unpredictable (Flannigan et al, 2009, p. 492) Studies show that in response to drier climatic conditions, the frequency of large fires in the Northwestern US has increased by 1000% since 1970 (Schoennagel et al, 2017, p. 4538) Warming also increases fire severity in being a sharp increase in the amount of area burned in  future predicted fires. In fact, this year alone has seen approximately a 23% increase of acres burned nationally compared to the average amount from 2006-2016 (National Interagency Fire Center [NIFC], 2017).

Not only do extreme wildfires kill off enormous amounts of trees, they also destroy thousands of homes and structures annually. Since 2011, there has been eleven wildfire outbreaks each causing at least one billion dollars in damages (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 2011). This October, over 20,000 citizens were evacuated from Santa Rosa California and the neighboring communities to flee from the devastating flames that destroyed everything in their path (Fuller et al, 2017, October 10). Due to past land use history coupling climate change, management through prescribed burning must be implemented at a fast rate to reduce the accumulation of dry fuels, or this megafire trend will only continue to worsen.

One of the most common means of managing forest fires as mentioned before is through prescribed burning. This is where a section of the forest, typically the understory, is purposely ignited to allow for the reduction of fuel to ultimately decrease the size, severity, and frequency of wildfires. (United States Geological Survey, 1999). This is usually done by small federal or state-level ground crews that are trained to maintain control of the fire. This form of management may not work on all landscapes, however it is a proven method in reducing fuel loads effectively.

On the coast of Southern Alabama, multiple prescribed burns were administered every 2-3 years in a Longleaf Pine dominated forest (Outcalt & Brockway, 2010, p. 1615). After eight years, the resulting forest structure and composition consisted of an open Longleaf Pine dominated overstory with a reduction in a woody understory and increase in an herbaceous layer (Outcalt & Brockway, 2010, p. 1622). This description is an ideal Longleaf Pine ecosystem because the build-up of a woody and dense understory heavily increases severe wildfire risk.

Much of the public is concerned about prescribed burning due to a lack of understanding. Some people fear of the chance prescribed burns might go awry and become impossible to contain. However, during the period of 2002-2006, the USFS could not contain 38 out of 3,640 controlled burns performed, which is a 99% success rate (Deirdre, D & Black, A., 2006). Considering how damaging wildfires can be, the chance of a prescribed burn becoming uncontrollable and destructive is quite negligible.

Due to negative opinions regarding prescribed burning and political constraints, there has not be and is not nearly enough prescribed burning being conducted throughout the U.S., especially on Pacific Northwestern national and state forests. After thirteen years, the USFS did prescribed burning on only 4.7% of Oregon’s 15.7 million acres of national forests and administered an even slimmer 1.4% of Washington’s 9.3 million acres (Brunner, J & Bernton, H., 2015, October 20). When broken down by region, of the 11.7 million acres burned using prescribed burning in 2014, the Southeast burned 8 million acres, 69% of the total amount performed throughout the U.S. When compared with western agencies, they only performed 27% of the total acres burned (Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils, Inc., 2015).

With the expansive amount of information covering the effectiveness of prescribed burning, the question remains why the West is conducting significantly less prescribed burning than the South. Part of the reason lies in fire being an accepted component of southern culture, in fact many southern laws support prescribed burning being done on private property by private non-commercial practitioners and private contractors (Kobziar et al, 2015, p. 565). There are much stricter laws in some regions of the Pacific Northwest limiting the amount of prescribed burning allowed. For instance, the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to enforce states to mandate certain levels of six common pollutants determined by the National Health-based Ambient Air Quality Standards (Engel K.H., 2013, p. 647). For states implementing significant amounts of prescribed burning, the EPA enforces them to carry out smoke management plans (SMPS) that include ways of minimizing smoke from prescribed burns and topics such as what agency will authorize burn permits (Engel K.H., 2013, p.656).

As mentioned earlier Oregon is conducting more prescribed burning than Washington state; Oregon federal and state agencies burned over 450,000 acres between 2010-2015 while Washington state and forest agencies burned less than 150,000 acres (Banse, T. 2016, February 3). Washington State Senator Linda Evans Parlette told the Northwestern News Network that the answer lies partially in these strict smoke management laws the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) imposes on the agencies and people of Washington. To get a prescribed burning plan approved in the state of Oregon, an agency or forest landowner must submit it to the District of Forestry state forester (Battye et al, 1999, p. 101). In order to get a plan approved in Washington state involved a lot more steps: agencies doing prescribed burns of 100 tons of fuel or more, which an average timber burn exceeds, must submit a permit to the DNR complete with pre-burn data and steps for collecting post-burn data (Battye et al, 1999, p. 141). In addition, the DNR region manager must screen the burn site and review the atmospheric conditions the day before the scheduled burn. Finally, the region manager must provide the final approval the day of the planned burn (Battye et al, 1999, p. 142). A solution to these inflexible smoke management laws that date back to the 90’s is modifying the clauses within each state’s’ SMP to allow for more prescribed burns to occur, especially in the west.

House Bill 2928 is a bill recently passed by Washington State Legislature in March 2016, aiming to make prescribed burning authorization more lenient (House Bill 2928, 2016). In summary, the bill calls for burn plans to be approved 24 hours before the scheduled burn as opposed to the day of. In addition, it reclassifies prescribed burning as “forest resiliency burns” allowing for controlled burns to be conducted on days that regular outdoor fires are prohibited. Finally, the bill states that burn permits can only be revoked by the DNR when the prescribed burn is highly likely to result in heavy air quality violations or other safety issues.

With projected warmer temperatures and less precipitation in the future due to global climate change, wildfires will likely increase in many areas of the country, especially of those in the western United States. However this does not necessarily have to mean that the severity of these wildfires has to increase as significantly as projected. Prescribed burning offers an effective treatment to reduce hazardous fuel loads. Moving towards the future we must increase knowledge of the public and politicians on fire ecology, which is a natural process in many western ecosystems.  We also must pass bills that concentrate around the initiative that fire management, both proactive and active, is needed and will be needed even to a greater extent in the future.  If this does not happen, key funding and initiatives may be lost because costs will only increase with more frequent, high severity wildfires. Fire has always been a part of the Western United States ecology and with the changing climate, precautions must be taken to insure low severity prescribed burns are administered to reduce the likelihood of frequent and severe wildfires looking towards the future.

AUTHORS

Gerald Barnes – Natural Resources Conservation with a Concentration in Wildlife Conservation

Oscar Hanson – Building Construction and Technology

Rebecca Holdowsky – Natural Resources Conservation with a Concentration in Forest Ecology and Conservation

REFERENCES

Banse, T. (2016, February 3). Washington state lawmakers want to fight fire with fire more often. Northwest News Network. Retrieved from http://nwnewsnetwork.org/post/washington-state-lawmakers-want-fight-fire-fire-more-often

Battye, R., Bauer, B., & MacDonald, G. (1999 September).Features of prescribed fire and smoke management rules for Western and Southern states. EC/R Incorporated, 1-156. Retrieved from https://www.wrapair.org//forums/fejf/documents/woodard.pdf

Brunner, J & Bernton, H. (2015, October 20). Fighting fire with fire: State policy hampers use of controlled burns. Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/fighting-fire-with-fire-state-policy-hampers-use-of-controlled-burns/

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection [CALFIRE]. (2017, November 29). Top 20 most destructive california wildfires. Retrieved from http://www.fire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/Top20_Destruction.pdf

CALFIRE. (2016, September 23). Incident statistics. Retrieved from http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_stats

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. (2011). Wildfires and climate change. Retrieved from https://www.c2es.org/content/wildfires-and-climate-change

Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils, Inc (2015). 2015 NATIONAL PRESCRIBED FIRE USE SURVEY REPORT. Retrieved from http://stateforesters.org/sites/default/files/publication-documents/2015%20Prescribed%20Fire%20Use%20Survey%20Report.pdf

Deirdre, D & Black, A. (2006). Learning from escaped prescribed fires – lessons for high reliability. Retrieved from https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_other/rmrs_2006_dether_d001.pdf

Engel, K.H. (2013). Perverse incentives: The case of wildfire smoke regulation. Ecology Law Quartely. (40)3, 622-672. Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2023&context=elq

Ensuring that restrictions on outdoor burning for air quality reasons do not impede measures necessary to ensure forest resilience to catastrophic fires, House Bill 2928. (2016) Retrieved from http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bill%20Reports/House/2928%20HBR%20AGNR%2016.pdf

Flannigan, M.D., Krawchuk, M.A, de Groot, W.J., Wotton, M.B., & Gowman, L.M. (2009). Implications of changing climate for global wildland fire. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 18(5), 483-507. doi:10.1071/WF0818

Fuller, T., Perez Pena, R., & Bromwich, J.E., (2017, October 10). California fires lay waste to 140,000 acres and rage on. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/us/california-fires.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

Harvey, C. (2017) Here’s what we know about wildfires and climate change. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/heres-what-we-know-about-wildfires-and-climate-change/

Hessburg, P.F., Agee, J.K., & Franklin, J.F. (2005). Dry forests and wildland fires of the inland Northwest USA: Contrasting the landscape ecology of the pre-settlement and modem eras. Forest Ecology and Management, 211, 117-139. doi: l0.1016/j.foreco.2005.02.0

Holthaus, E. (2017). The firestorm ravaging northern california cities, explained. Retrieved from http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/10/the-firestorm-ravaging-northern-california-cities-explained/

Houtman et al (2013). Allowing a wildfire to burn: estimating the effect on future fire suppression costs. International Journal of Wildland Fire. A-L. doi: 10.1071/WF12157

Huang, Y., Wu, S., & Kaplan, J.O (2015). Sensitivity of global wildfire occurrences to various factors in the context of global change. Atmospheric Environment, 121; 86-92; doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2015.06.002

Kobziar, L.N., Goodwin, G., Taylor, Leland., & Watts, A.C. (2015). Perspectives on trends, effectiveness, and impediments to prescribed burning in the Southern U.S. Forests. (6)3, 561-580. doi: 10.3390/f6030561

Outcalt, K.W & Brockway, D.G. (2010). Structure and composition changes following restoration treatments of longleaf pine forests on the Gulf Coastal Plain of Alabama. Forest Ecology and Management, 259, 1615-1623. doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2010.01.039

Pacific Biodiversity Institute. (2009). Benefits of fire in ecosystems. Retrieved from http://www.pacificbio.org/initiatives/fire/fire_ecology.html

Pacific Northwest Research Station (2015, September 14). Fuel treatments: thinning and prescribed burns. Retrieved from https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/research/fire/fuel-treatments.shtml

Schoennagel et al, (2017). Adapt to more wildfire in western north american forests as climate changes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(18), 4582-4590. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1617464114

Stephens et al. (2012). Effects of forest fuel-reduction treatments in the United States. Bioscience, 62, 549-560. Doi: 10.1525/bio.2012.62.6.6

Snyder, M. (2014, July 2). What is a forest stand and why do foresters seem so stuck on them. Retrieved from https://northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/forest-stand

United States Geological Survey. (1999, September 22). USGS studies wildfire ecology in the Western United States. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990922050418.htm

Washington, G.W. Fire and fuels management: Fire and fuels management: Definitions, ambiguous terminology and references. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/olym/learn/management/upload/fire-wildfire-definitions-2.pdf

Westervelt, E. (2017, October 14). In Northern California, exhausted firefighters push themselves ‘to the limits’. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/10/14/557620863/exhausted-firefighters-make-progress-against-northern-california-wildfires?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social

Deforestation Due to Palm Oil

Rachael Bernstein- Animal Science

Joe Wong- Animal Science

Wyatt Lewis- Animal Science

A Period of Consequences

“An Armageddon is approaching at the beginning of the third millennium. But it is not the cosmic war and fiery collapse of mankind foretold in sacred scripture. It is the wreckage of the planet by an exuberantly plentiful and ingenious humanity.” O. Wilson

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Partial Harvesting in the Northeastern United States

Raina D’Orazio, Pre-Veterinary Medicine

Whitney Comeau, Animal Sciences

William Rueda, Building and Construction Technology

Chloe Rutkowski, Building and Construction Technology

[Untitled Diagrams of Clearcutting and Partial-Harvesting]. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/fmg/nfmg/fm101/silv/index.htm

[Untitled Diagrams of Clearcutting and Partial-Harvesting]. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/fmg/nfmg/fm101/silv/index.htm

Introduction

You wouldn’t expect to walk into a health food restaurant and be served a salad with no organic ingredients. The means would not be consistent with the ends, and you would distrust the company. A health food restaurant validates its interests in its consumer’s dietary choices by using organic ingredients in its dishes. Similarly, any company that markets its products to clients with certain values needs to make itself credible by creating its product in a manner that reflects the those same values. Here, sustainable construction is that salad, and sustainable forestry practices are the necessary organic ingredients.  Continue Reading

Public involvement by Massachusetts’s landowners is a crucial factor in the fight against the hemlock woolly adelgid infestation

Lauren Johnston: Animal Science

Emily Casey: Natural Resources Conservation

Zach Cross: Natural Resources conservation

 

Trees are often seen as the strongest of plants, sort of permanent structures that dominate and decorate our landscapes.  But what if I told you that a small insect was changing that? Would you be skeptical, afraid or both? The hemlock woolly adelgid is an invasive insect running rampant through the Northeast, targeting the dominant canopy tree species of eastern and Canadian hemlocks. Landowners with this infestation on their property experience not only the great loss of these native New England canopy trees, but property damages and value declines when no management efforts are taken. But there is hope! With little time and money investments by private landowners, this infestation can be controlled before its too late to see our hemlocks in abundance again.   Figure 1 exemplifies just a portion of the vast loss of hemlocks in a Pennsylvania forest.

Figure 1 Skeletal remains of hemlocks plagued by HWA infestation shown in the PA forest (http://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/the-last-of-the-giants/).

Figure 1 Skeletal remains of hemlocks plagued by HWA infestation shown in the PA forest (http://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/the-last-of-the-giants/).

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The use of controlled fires to reestablish shrubland habitat for the New England cottontail

One of the most recognizable backyard animals is the rabbit. It quietly hops among the grass in your lawn, foraging for food. It has brown ears, big black eyes, long hind feet, and a small tuft of a white tail. You think, oh it’s a bunny. Or perhaps you can correctly identify it as a cottontail. What you are likely seeing is an eastern cottontail, a prolific, invasive rabbit that was introduced to New England and spread rapidly throughout the region. In addition to being a general pest that destroys our gardens, the eastern cottontail impacts native species and can serve as a vector for harmful diseases to both our family and pets (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, n.d.). But did you know that New England also has an environmentally beneficial native cottontail? Continue Reading

The Feasibility and Environmental Benefits of Utilizing Woody Biomass in Massachusetts

For a long time now man has dug for coal as a source of energy and it is still utilized globally. In coal burning power plants combusting coal generates energy and it heats up water that creates steam. The steam moves a turbine that creates electricity. Electricity uses over 90% of coal produced in the United States, accounting for 39% of the country’s electricity consumption. The United States is starting to make an effort to cut back on coal use for electricity, while other countries are starting to increase their use (Magill, 2014). Globally, in the past decade, the number of coal power plants has grown and so has carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Within the next forty years 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide will enter the atmosphere from coal power plants (Magill, 2014). These high carbon dioxide emissions devastate our environment. Fortunately, there is a growing movement to switch to renewable energy sources, which could offer better alternatives to coal.

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Sustainable Timber Harvesting in New England

Conor Cappe (Envirisci), Chris DeGrass (NRC), Jon Hardy-McCaulif (NRC)

One hundred feet tall and eighteen inches in diameter. That is the size of a tree that represents how much timber product is used annually by the average American. Paper products, wood for construction or fuel, and items like furniture or wood chips for a garden. It raises the question: Where does your tree come from? While this is a vastly oversimplified question, the source of wood products is just as important to know as the source of the food you are purchasing and eating. Continue Reading

The Case for Biological Controls Against the Emerald Ash Bore

By: Eric DeLeo, Brendan French, Ross Howard

 

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Spring 2014

The Emerald Ash Borer and Why its a Problem

Invasive species seem to be popping up everywhere in North America lately. From exotic plants choking out native vegetation in our forest, to zebra mussels clogging up pipes in our lakes and ponds. Invasive species of all types are on the rise and now it’s our job to try and prevent them from spreading, and possibly eradicate them from our native environments.

There is one invasive species in our region that has caused significant damage to our Ash tree species, Fraxinus Spp. The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis, is an invasive wood boring insect from Asia that infest and kill our native ash trees, let it be green, white, or black ash. EAB was first detected in Michigan in 2002. However it was suspected to arrived there in 1998 getting itself established in the environment for a few years before being noticed. Researchers believe EAB made its way to America via untreated ash wood like pallets used for stabilizing cargo in ships transporting heavy consumer goods from Asia. The ash wood pallets are usually treated with high heat or toxic fumes, but are suspected to have been mistreated in the case of EAB. Since 2002 EAB has established itself firmly in our forest, killing ash trees and has developed a range spanning from Canada to Georgia and from Colorado to New Hampshire. The pest is in nineteen different states and two Canadian provinces, and is now an international pest that seems to be making its mark with little sign of slowing down. Continue Reading